Aspen’s affordable housing program may see changes

The power structure within the local housing authority may soon get turned upside down, if Aspen City Council gets buy-in from its Pitkin County counterparts.

The biggest move would be to change the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board of directors from a citizen committee to one with elected officials on it. They would be responsible for making big policy decisions on the affordable housing program.

“The board would get a lot more powerful,” said Councilman Adam Frisch on Tuesday at an annual retreat with his colleagues and city department heads.

Frisch won support from the rest of the council to pursue changing the make-up of the board to two City Council members, two members from the Pitkin County Board of Commissioners and three citizens who specialize in particular areas.

It would be a significant shift in how APCHA has been governed for the past 40 or so years. No longer would the APCHA board deal with compliance or administrative issues.

“APCHA 2.0 is an empowered, decision making body,” said Mayor Steve Skadron, adding that the administration and staff would part of a city department.

Established in the 1970s with 50-50 responsibilities between the city and county, APCHA now manages nearly 3,000 units in the inventory — both for sale and rentals.

Money is funneled into the program through sales and rental revenue, developer fees and real estate transfer taxes in both the city and county.

Pitkin County’s dollars are less than what the city generates, yet decisions on income categories and rules for the program are equally divided.

And that is where Frisch said it can get dicey. A lot of issues have arisen since APCHA was established, including the lack of capital reserves homeowners associations have within their aging complexes and retirees staying in their units while no longer participating in the workforce.

With a policy-making board made up of elected officials, the stalemates between governments on substantive issues would be eliminated.

“I think we and the community want accountability,” Frisch said.

The future APCHA’s board make-up would be no different than other governmental agencies like the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, where elected officials from Aspen, Pitkin County and Snowmass Village serve as representatives.

Under the revised governance plan, the city and county would keep control of their respective budgets and tax revenues.

Council is scheduled to meet with county commissioners Aug. 7 during its quarterly check-in meeting. The proposed changes will be discussed then.

“We’ll see where it goes, maybe there are fatal flaws,” Frisch said.


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